BY LEN WELLS
One of the most visual aspects of Memorial Day is the widespread display of the American Flag. Volunteers placed literally thousands of small American Flags on the graves of veterans in cemeteries throughout the area and courthouses and other public places proudly raised the Stars and Stripes in honor of our fallen veterans. What I would like to see is the tradition of flying the American Flag carried on throughout the year – not just Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In just a couple of weeks, it will be Flag Day - a perfect time to focus on keeping the Red White and Blue flying proudly.
Specifically, June 14 is Flag Day – a Monday this year. The celebration dates back 244 years when George Washington commissioned Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation in anticipation of a declaration of independence. As far as being an official holiday, that didn’t come until May 30, 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14. The day commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.
Personally, I fly the Stars and Stripes from the porch on the front of our house. I keep it illuminated with some solar lights. Many, but not all businesses fly the flag. Pretty much all public buildings fly the flag alongside the Illinois State Flag and oftentimes a POW Flag. Unfortunately, those who raise the flag don’t always keep track of its condition. Bad weather takes its toll on Old Glory. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for the flag or the materials used in its construction. Flags wear out. Flag Day would be the perfect time to inspect any American Flags you have flying to ensure they aren’t in tatters. In the event you have a ripped, torn or frayed flag, make plans to replace it as soon as possible. And that brings up the question of what to do with a tattered flag.
In most communities, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion posts will gladly accept out-of-service flags. These service organizations usually schedule an annual flag disposal ceremony so frayed flags can be disposed of with dignity and a certain amount of ceremony. The last thing you want to do is take down the flag and toss it in the trash. Some courthouses even have a drop box where soiled or tattered flags can be dropped off. In any event, take a couple of minutes of your time to find a drop-off location for flags that are no longer suitable for display.
I remember a few years ago a local lady drove around the area looking for tattered flags. When she found one in shreds, she took it down and sent it off for a proper disposal. While the flag lady’s heart was 100% in the right place, she discovered you probably shouldn’t remove another person’s flag without first asking their permission. Regardless, I applauded her efforts, and recall the resulting news story encouraged others to take a moment to examine their own American Flag to see if it needed replacing.
And that brings me to a personal grievance – a pet peeve if you will. 2020 and to some degree 2021 have been very divisive to say the least. Just last week, I witnessed a pickup truck roaring through town with three flags planted in the back – Trump 2020, the Confederate flag and the American Flag. Now, before you start writing letters, that particular individual and anyone else has the absolute right to fly any flag they wish for whatever reason. However, it should be noted that Robert E. Lee surrendered the last of the Confederate Army to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. That was the end of the Civil War. I will not apologize for holding the position that the Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred – not heritage. It has no place being flown next to the American flag. Additionally, contrary to some folks, Mr. Trump indeed lost the election and is no longer our president.
I suspect someone will disagree with my opinion find it necessary to plant a few Confederate or Trump flags in my yard and that’s just fine. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to put up an American Flag. If you already fly one, make sure it’s not worn out. It’s the least we can do to help bring this country back together.